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YouTube Fans Look Beyond Hollywood-ization of VidCon: 'It's an Organized Chaos'

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It's a hot Friday afternoon as a flash mob dressed in unicorn onesies descends on the courtyard outside the Anaheim Convention Center, causing the teens and tweens milling about to pull out their phones to snap pictures. Meanwhile, no one bats an eye at a young man narrating excitedly to a GoPro perched above him on a selfie stick.

A merchandise booth in the convention center's Expo Hall is selling a shirt that reads "Internet Killed Television." And if the sold out signs are any indication, that statement could soon become reality. This is the sixth annual VidCon, a YouTube convention that has drawn some 18,000 fans to Anaheim, California for three days devoted to online video stars.

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Fans, creators and industry types alike walk the show floor, but teens make up the majority of the attendees, each having purchased a $150 pass to partake in the festivities that officially began Thursday, July 23. "It’s an organized chaos," summarizes one girl as she waits in line for an informal meet-and-greet in the hall.

Hollywood has long viewed YouTube, which turned 10 earlier this year, as an alternative means of entertainment, a place where low-budget vlogs can attract niche fandoms. But in recent years, the entertainment industry has come to recognize YouTube (and other emerging platforms like Vine) as a breeding ground for talent. Take comedienne Grace Helbig, whose quirky (and at times awkward) humor landed her a gig as host of E! Network’s The Grace Helbig Show, or top Viner Andrew Bachelor, who has booked a number of recurring television gigs and is signed on to star in a film opposite Martin Lawrence

But even as online creators increasingly look to Hollywood to grow their influence, they are already stars at VidCon, where it's practically impossible for one of them to step foot into the convention center without causing pandemonium.

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Vlogger Lauren Elizabeth Luthringshausen, for example, was driving into the event when her car swarmed by fans. "I felt like Justin Bieber for maybe 15 seconds," she says with a laugh. The passionate fans are the reason that this year VidCon organizers — led by founders John Green and Hank Green — arranged to have a select number of featured creators transported discreetly from one appearance to the next through alleyways, back entrances and freight elevators.

The added level of security has impacted chance encounters with top YouTubers, once a staple of VidCon. Many fans attend the event in the hope of meeting their favorite creators and for its first several years, that was possible — though "meeting" could describe anything from taking a blurry selfie in a crowd of 50 people to a more formal meet-and-greet. These days, accessibility to talent varies, with some high-profile creators like Connor Franta and GloZell Green posing with fans in high-security photo ops and smaller creators such as gamer Meghan Camarena and beauty guru Kandee Johnson hosting their own impromptu fan meet-and-greets in the convention center hallways. 

This is an excerpt. Read the full story at The Hollywood Reporter.

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